Cycling instead of driving has €1.40-€1.52 per km economic benefit in cities on island of Ireland

— Walking and cycling on the island of Ireland saves the HSE and NHS nearly €100 million per year.

Cycling instead of driving has an economic benefit of between €1.40-€1.52 per km in cities on the island of Ireland, according to the Walking and Cycling Index 2023 reports.

The authors of the report said that walking, wheeling, and cycling take 760,000 cars off the road every day in a combination of Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. There was no report for Derry.

The reports are funded by the National Transport Authority in the Republic and by the Department of Infrastructure in the North and complied for cities across Ireland and the UK by Sustrans, which calls itself a “walking, wheeling and cycling charity”.

The term “wheeling” is sometimes questioned by people with disabilities, and addressing that, Sustrans said in the reports: “We recognise that some people who use wheeled mobility aids, for example, a wheelchair or a mobility scooter, may not identify with the term walking and may prefer to use the term wheeling. We use the terms walking and wheeling together to ensure we are as inclusive as possible.”

Annual economic benefit for individuals and the areasNet economic benefit for each km cycled instead of drivenNet economic benefit for each km walked instead of drivenSaving for the HSE / NHS
Dublin€2.39 billion€1.48 €1.01€64.5 million
Belfast£201.5 million£1.30 (€1.52)36p£7.3 million
Cork€401.6 million€1.40€0.93€10.7 million
Limerick€145.4 million€1.40€0.94€4.54 million
Galway€144.4 million€1.43€0.97€3.55 million
Waterford€80.5 million€1.40€0.94€2.67 million
DATA: Walking and Cycling Index reports from Sustrans.

Regarding the Republic, the report said that the each year people walking, wheeling, and cycling in the metropolitan areas of cities when they could have driven, prevents an estimated 5,844 serious long-term health conditions, and the cost saving to the HSE is equivalent to 1,600,000 GP appointments. In Belfast, the estimated savings for the NHS are £1.5 million per year, which is the equivalent of the cost of 38,000 GP appointments.

It said that the annual economic benefit from people walking, wheeling and cycling to individuals and society in the five areas in the Republic each year is over €3bn, and £201.5 million in Belfast.

The authors of the report said that the “Walking and Cycling Index uses a model to understand the costs and benefits of driving, walking, wheeling and cycling and inputs include travel time, vehicle operating costs, health benefits, air quality and taxation.”

Sustrans said that their reports are based on local data, modelling and an independent demographically representative survey of residents aged 16+ in each city.

The surveys with a sample of at least 1,100 in the Republic were conducted face-to-face by the independent market research company Behaviour & Attitudes from April to July 2023, and, in Belfast, the survey was of 1,071 residents aged 16 or above and was conducted from March to June 2023 by the social research organisation NatCen. These included a “representative of all residents, not just those who walk, wheel or cycle.”

The complete reports and further details on the methodology can be found at

MAIN IMAGE: Provided by NTA for use in Walking and Cycling Index 2023 coverage.


  1. What I can’t understand is why is there more of an economic benefit to cycling rather then walking surely cycling costs an individual money in maintenance and wear and tear whereas walking costs nothing. Maybe someone can make sense of it

    • Economic assesments for transport have a large weighting on time, I’m guessing that’s a large factor. Personally speaking, I carry a lot more shopping on a (normal) bike than when on foot.

      • Perhaps also because twice the proportion of walking trips (47%) are for leisure as for bike trips (23%)? Also, if it is about distance substituted for car trips, bike journeys are on average longer (5.5km) than than walking trips (2.2km) and thus give a greater proportionate impact on substituting for motor trips and their inherent congestion costs, societal costs.

  2. In fairness all seems a very fuzzy survey I reckon. The idea that every walk would alternatively be a car journey seems very askew. If it was of suburban people who owned cars perhaps it might be more useful. But if they lived in a city centre why would they need a car? Are they talking suburban to urban journeys?

    It’s all very well talking economics – but what about not worrying whether you are going to be killed cycling through Westmoreland St every day:)

    If I see one more RTE tv report showing the canal cycleway – still the only half decent city centre cycle path….


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